JUST DIE ALREADY

18 Feb

awap

1. A Good Day to Die Hard/Fox                Wknd/$  25.0            Total/$  33.1

 2. Identity Thief/Universal                        Wknd/$  23.7            Total/$  71.0

 3. Safe Haven/Relativity                             Wknd/$  21.5            Total/$  30.3

 4. Escape From Planet Earth/Wein          Wknd/$  15.9            Total/$  15.9

 5. Warm Bodies/Summit                             Wknd/$   8.8            Total/$  50.1

 6. Beautiful Creatures/Warners                 Wknd/$   7.6             Total/$    7.6

 7. Side Effects/ORF                                       Wknd/$   6.3             Total/$   19.1

 8. Silver Linings Playbook/Wein                Wknd/$   6.0            Total/$  98.4

 9. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters             Wknd/$   3.5            Total/$  49.7

10. Zero Dark Thirty/Sony                             Wknd/$   3.0            Total/$  87.9

 

IT COULD BE WORSE; IT COULD BE ANOTHER LETHAL WEAPON

To no one’s surprise, A Good Day To Die Hard opens at number one and the title couldn’t be any more appropriate because this franchise is dying very hard, with every chapter being more inept than the one before it.  Though to be fair, I’d put Live Free or Die Hard before either this or Die Hard With A Vengeance, despite all the CGI and the sight of Bruce Willis beating a jet unarmed.  I’d be hard pressed to think of a sequel more utterly clueless about what made the original films so successful.  It seems to think that Bruce Willis wisecracking and killing people is all you need, but in their defense all of us still going to see these prove them right somewhat.  Then again $33M opening for a 20-year-old franchise is actually kind of weak.  Let me put it this way: Skyfall opened at almost three times this gross and Wreck It Ralph made more its second week.  What made John McClane so exceptional was that he was a reluctant hero. In Die Hard he tries the best he can to avoid taking on the bad guys.  Even the weak Live Free or Die Hard got this character point right.  Not here. Here, there’s much talk of “going out and killing” scumbags because that’s what their family does. He also used to bleed. Now McClane is nearly indestructible, crawling out of devastating car crashes literally without a scratch.  This is clearly meant to hand over the franchise to literally John McClane Jr, but this poor actor has none of Bruce Willis’s charm and the script does nothing to help him.  We ran the “McClane’s kids hate him” idea into the ground the last time and like last time we really don’t bother getting into why. When your dad heroically saves your mom twice, it’d be nice to know why you and your sister resent him so, other than he “worked all the time.”  It’s not like he was out busting jaywalkers.  He’s got the best reason possible.  Last time he literally saved the whole damn country, which as a CIA agent, Jr. would know better than anyone.  But  here Jr. just seems like an asshole and Sr is giving him stiff competition in a script that does all it can to also drain Willis of his natural charm. These are your heroes and you don’t really like either one of them.  The best comparison I can make is that Die Hard is a 2+ hour movie that you don’t want to end, while A Good Day To Die Hard is a 98 minute movie that seems like it will never end.

 

LIKE DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN

Identity Thief drops to number two and also in this is Amanda Peet and you know she’s got to be chafing over Allison Williams being heralded as some kind of beauty when she looks just like Amanda Peet who got none of this kind of fanfare even when she was the “Hot New Thing” running around topless with Bruce Willis in The Whole Nine Yards.  Let Amanda Peet’s career be a cautionary tale for you, Allison Williams. One day you’re making movies with Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher, next you’re playing thankless “wife” roles to men who aren’t big enough stars to be able to command younger actresses.  Though her show Bent last year was a very funny series that should have been a very funny 90-minute movies. Seriously, how’d they plan to have her romance with her handyman stretch out over the years of a TV show?

 

BUT SHE’S DIFFERENT!

Speaking of franchises that need to die, Save Haven opens at number three and this is the latest from the Nicholas Sparks franchise of complete crap.  These are romance novels for the same people who think 50 Shades of Gray is hot.  I will give him this much: Sparks flat out said he started writing these books to make money and nothing but.  So I respect him as a capitalist but despise him as both a writer and human being for continuing to pump this dreck out. He’s got to have enough money by now. He can stop but chooses not to.  These movies have been become the romantic equivalent of a horror movie or family film: a vehicle for actors who need a boost because they come with a built in audience. No one is clamoring to see Josh Duhamel, who is basically the dumb person’s Timothy Olyphant and almost no one knows who Julianne Hough is, despite Ryan Seacrest’s attempt to buy her a career.  Ask William Randolph Hearst how that worked out.  She’s thin, cute and blonde? You don’t say! Can’t be too many of them in Hollywood.

 

THE DAY THE KIDS WOULD BE STILL

Escape From Planet Earth opens at number four and when you can’t float a CGI animated kids science fiction film, you may need to call it a day.  This couldn’t look more unappetizing and clearly no kids were clamoring to see it.  Even parents who desperately needed a place to park their kids for 90 minutes gave it a pass.  In a world where the miserable Ice Age franchise is on its fifth installment and the odious Madagascar has reached three, that’s saying something.

 

ZOMBIES VS. WITCHES

Warm Bodies is down to number five, followed by Beautiful Creatures opening at number six and guess what isn’t going to be the next Twilight?  This goes on the heap with all the other Young Adult literature franchise books that have failed to make it onscreen.  This one is apparently about witches as opposed to vampires and they’ve got no one but themselves to be blame because the ads didn’t tell you anything. No hint of a story, character, nothing. Just some young girl is going to become powerful with two slumming Oscar-winning English actors trying to make you think it’s not just total teen crap. Even Twilight sold you the idea of a young girl in a small town who meets a mysterious stranger who turns out to be a vampire.  This seemed to think that “Hey, we’re a successful book series” was going to be enough to put butts in seats and it wasn’t.  And maybe it’s not time for witches. The Secret Circle failed on TV just last year. That’s a successful book series too. Maybe its failure should have been a clue.

 

NATURE VS. NURTURE

Side Effects is down to number seven and Catherine Zeta-Jones disappeared so completely after winning her Oscar for Chicago every appearance seems like a novelty.  Maybe after seeing what happened to Michael Douglas’s other kid and his brother she decided to be a full-time mom to try and overcome the Douglas DNA.  Oh, shut up. You know it’s true.

 

LAST CHANCE

Silver Linings Playbook is down to number eight and I know this is my last week to see it before the Oscars. I’ll get to it. I promise.

 

IT’S CALLED A PATRIARCHY, KIDS

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is down to number nine and after seeing Beautiful Creatures tank and this succeed ($150M worldwide from a $50M) I’m now seriously convinced that people don’t want to see witches unless they’re dying.  Let’s pretend we don’t notice that witches tend to be very powerful women.

 

MOMENTS BEFORE ASCENSION

Finally, Argo closes out the top ten at the top ten. Next time this week it’ll be the “Oscar-winning Argo.”

 

HOLY ROSE COLORED GLASSES

In the 80’s Frank Miller’s reimagining of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns along with The Watchmen made comics history with over a million dollars in sales and an overall change in the tone of comics.  Darker, edgier elements had begun creeping in before then (a hero as light as The Flash already had to deal with angel dust and a murdered wife), but these works showed it could also enormously profitable for an audience who regularly mistake sex and violence for maturity like most teenagers—or grown men trapped emotionally as teenagers, which is the bulk of the comic reading audience.  A wave of darkness overtook almost every character but none so much as Batman who hasn’t been the same since.  He stopped being simply a “darker” superhero and more often than not became a borderline psychotic taking out his emotional trauma on criminals while apparently secretly preparing for the day he’d have to take out Superman and any other superhero who actually believed in due process. Nonetheless, it remains a brilliant interpretation of the character and the only real question is why it took this long for Warners Animated division to finally adapt it.  On the plus side they were smart enough to realize that they couldn’t do it justice in the required 80 minute run time for all animated direct to video features and split it into two films.  On the other hand, the luxury of time exposes many of the flaws of both the work and the people adapting it.  Simply because comics are a primarily visual medium and actually look like storyboards for a film doesn’t mean that they are.  Comics are no more movies than books are movies and likewise need to be adapted and translated, not copied directly.  There’s precious little adaptation and translation going on here and things that would have served the story better like the first person narration from many of the characters have been dropped, while the brief, brutal battle with Superman from the comics is dragged out by giving Batman a super-suit so he can go toe-to-toe with Superman as they throw wrecking balls at one another.  Then there are the problems with the original work itself. As a kid I could only see the most obvious, like how everyone who disagrees with Batman’s black-and-white view of crime is weak and wrong, but as an adult am can now see the homophobia (The Joker is made disturbingly effeminate) and misogyny (Superman’s first love, Lana Lang, is now an overweight talking head on TV, while Catwoman is an overweight whore, literally).  They should no more have been included than the racism, homophobia and misogyny of Frank Miller than they should of any writer when their work is transferred to the screen. Of course I had to pull the book out and it still stands up flaws and all, but there was a better adaptation done in a five-minute segment on the 90’s Batman animated series.

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